March 31, 2022

How a Strange Brain Quirk Lost My Fork, Found My Magnificent Woman

I lost my fork…

We four boys sat on two oak benches — two boys to a bench — with Pop and Nan in chairs at the end of the great oak table. Dinner at our house capped the day and conjured a wide range of sounds, from growls of anger, to tears of rebellion, to peals of laughter.

As you might expect from four boys, we needled each other and often played pranks.

One night, I noticed my fork was missing from next to my plate.

I glanced around the table at my brothers’ place settings to see if someone had an extra fork. Nothing.

I immediately knew that one of them had stolen it and was hiding it.

“Who took my fork?” I said, in tone that meant business.

My brothers just smiled.

“It’s not funny,” I said, raising my voice. “Who took my fork?”

Now they were laughing at me…at ME, the oldest.

I pointed across the table at Troy, then Lane, accusing each. By this time, I could tell it was a conspiracy and they weren’t breaking ranks.

As I wheeled to fling the blame at Jim, I noticed in the hand that wielded the accusatory finger, a glint of silver.

My fork was in my hand. I lost it though it never left my grasp.

How could I have missed the obvious presence of an eating utensil in my own hand?

You know the answer, don’t you?

I wasn’t looking for it where it was. I was looking where I thought it must be. If it wasn’t next to my plate, a brother must have it. Even the evidence of two senses — touch and sight — could not overwhelm the power of my mind.

I KNEW it was stolen

You can laugh at me (and you should). But I know you have your own story too embarrassing to tell.

We can lose things in plain sight because of two weird quirks of our brains.

  1. The brain finds what it’s looking for, and ignores everything else.
  2. You tell your brain what to look for, and what to ignore, even if you don’t realize it.

Shoppers often tell retail salespeople that they don’t know what they’re looking for, but hope “something will jump out at me.”

It almost never does…unless the shopper gets clear on what she seeks. If she instructs her brain about even a single aspect of the product she seeks, she’ll start to notice potential solutions.

If she doesn’t, she often walks out of the store and tells her best friend, “They don’t have anything at that store.”

What about more important things than forks and furniture?

What if you’re looking for a relationship, or a work project, or a new career?

Same principle applies.

Before I met my lovely bride, I had drawn up a prayer list of the kind of woman I was looking for. The top characteristic I sought was “a woman who loves Jesus more than she loves me.” Oddly enough, none of the list items mentioned beauty. When I met her, it was shocking how she checked every box on my prayer list…and delightful that she was also beautiful. (Bonus!)

Two weeks later, I asked her to marry me.

I eventually learned that she had her own list, and that’s how she knew to say, “Yes.”

At this writing, we’ve been married nearly 29 years.

God brought us together. One of the ways He did it was by inspiring us to ask Him for exactly what we wanted — to make a list.

This works even if you don’t believe God exists, largely because he designed our brain to receive instructions and execute them, then filter for the best result.

The brain, once instructed, begins to notice things that fit. At the same time, the brain ignores things that don’t fit the instructions.

The same power that caused me to lose a fork in my own hand, allowed me to find my beautiful bride.

How can you tap this strange brain quirk?

Perhaps you should start with a list.

Put the fork down and pick up a pencil. Have fun with it.

After all, you might wind up with something that delights you for more than 29 years…and counting.